NORTH ADAMS — Thanks to a strong partnership between the city and the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, students entering Drury High School will have already had more than 20 field trips to the Marshall Street museum.
That bond was further bolstered recently by the announcement of a $40,000 award by the National Endowment for the Arts, which will fund the continued participation of North Adams students in the Art 4 Change program at Mass MoCA's Kidspace.
Art 4 Change, a four-year initiative already underway, is the result of collaboration between North Adams Public Schools staff and leaders at Mass MoCA. With revolving programming and galleries at Kidspace, the goal of the program is to expand "students' capacity to face challenges," according to an announcement from North Adams Public Schools.
The funding from the National Endowment for the Arts, an independent federal agency created to promote and fund the arts, will help pay for transportation and admission costs for the hundreds of students who will file through the museum's doors.
"We have a high population of students in our school that qualify for free or reduced lunch and special education. This gives these kids an opportunity to go out and experience something they might not normally get," said John Franzoni, principal of Brayton Elementary School.
Each year, pre-kindergarten through seventh grade students will take at least two field trips to the museum and fourth graders will participate in a weeklong residency with an artist. By the time they enter high school, North Adams students are expected to have spent at least 100 hours at the museum in addition to more than 200 hours of in-school art education.
The art and associated program attempts to familiarize children with assets of effective problem solving — empathy, optimism and courage.
For the upcoming year, two installations are planned for Kidspace. Artist Federico Uribe's "Here Comes the Sun" will include "magical, sculptural menagerie crafted out of a variety of materials such as leather bags, bullets, shoelaces and colored pencils," while artist Nick Cave will create a "Kaleidoscopic Playground," according to the museum.
Brayton Elementary Teacher Marie McCarron's fourth grade students spent a day this school year at Kidspace with visiting artist Aaron Johnson. They collaborated with Johnson on a colorful mural made with socks.
"He just piggybacked on everything that we're trying to teach in the classroom throughout the day," McCarron said, adding that students were engaged and inquisitive all day.
Johnson explained how and why he created the work, and then he taught the kids how to do it. Johnson used the students' work in a mural installation, "Walk in My Shoes."
"To bring the kids to the art, it's just an amazing, amazing program. You cannot find anything like that," McCarron said. "We have a gift that we've been given and we just need to take and embrace it."
Collaboration between the city's schools and the surrounding educational and cultural institutions has become the norm. Franzoni noted ongoing partnerships with the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts and Williams College as well as with Mass MoCA.
"For a small town, we have some really great resources all around us. And it's nice because they're all willing to pitch in and help the kids," Franzoni said.
Contact Adam Shanks at 413-496-6376